TAMPA, Fla. — The prospect of leaving the Tampa Bay Buccaneers never really appealed to All-Pro running back Doug Martin.
Heading into his fifth-season, the top player at his position in free agency agreed Wednesday to terms of a five-year contract worth more than $35 million, with $15 million guaranteed.
The 27-year-old two-time Pro Bowl selection has had two outstanding seasons with the Bucs in addition to two injury-filled years. In 2015, he rushed for 1,402 yards, second in the NFL, and six touchdowns. His 4.87-yard average was the highest in team history.
"He’s one of the pivotal parts of our offence. Obviously he gained a lot of yards, but it’s really the way that he gains them with his angry style of running that makes everybody around him just love playing with him, linemen like to block for him better than they would just a guy," general manager Jason Licht said.
"He’s a special, special guy," the GM added. "He’s among that elite category of running backs to make it to their second contracts. … He’s earned his money. We wanted to reward him. He’s earned every penny and we’re excited for him."
Martin rushed for 1,454 yards and 11 touchdowns as a rookie in 2012, when he was the 31st overall draft pick and finished third in the league in total yards from scrimmage behind Adrian Peterson and Calvin Johnson. He was slowed by injuries the next two seasons, but insists he never lost confidence in himself.
"It’s definitely been a journey," Martin said. "But to come back from adversity, and coming back last year as strong as I did, definitely makes me proud. I’m glad it happened that way."
With the former Boise State standout reverting to his rookie form and No. 1 overall draft pick Jameis Winston throwing for over 4,000 yards last season, Tampa Bay set a franchise record for yards gained and ranked fifth in the NFL in total offence.
Retaining the unrestricted free agent was the team’s top priority this spring.
It helped that the running back wanted to return after the team improved from two wins in 2014 to six last season. He also liked the idea of staying in a system that blossomed under the guidance of Dirk Koetter, the former offensive co-ordinator who was promoted to head coach when Lovie Smith was fired in January.
"I’ve always saw myself as a Buc. I didn’t think I was going anywhere else," Martin said.
"I love Dirk Koetter’s offence. I thought we had a bunch of young guys, a bunch of rookies that came in and we played well. Jameis is going to be a great quarterback for us. I can’t wait to come back. We’re going to do great things. The sky’s the limit for us."
Martin has started all 49 games he played in during his career, rushing for 3,086 yards and 20 touchdowns. He also has 107 receptions for 873 yards and two TDs.
His 4.87 yards per carry average last season was the highest by any NFL running back with at least 250 carries since LeSean McCoy averaged 5.12 on 314 attempts in 2013. His 1,673 yards from scrimmage were fourth in the league and third most in Bucs history.
"He had a couple of years where he was banged-up. He was written off by a lot of people," Licht said. "Coach Koetter was one of his biggest fans when he was hired here, and to overcome adversity and do what he did here shows that he’s something special and not a dime-a-dozen guy."